How to Get Better at Songwriting- A Beginners Guide

I’ve worked with a lot of bands and songwriters in my day. Some people are relaxed and comfortable when creating. Others get mega self-conscious and actually limit their creative output because they are to busy fearing that a bad song may come out. When writing, a bad song is the best thing you can hope for. I’ll explain…

We all want to write great songs. Personally, I wouldn’t mind selling 30 songs to Taylor Swift and collect my 7 figure royalty checks while I do absolutely nothing for the rest of my life.

Okay, maybe not all of us want to write songs for Taylor Swift, but we do want to our songs to be just as inspiring our favorite songs. That’s a tall order in many cases.

We try and try and try to write these great songs. We push and push and push as if the same mentality that helps you win a bike race or helps you dig a ditch quicker is going to somehow make the songs better.

For better or worse, songwriting is a totally different animal. Sometimes the chorus of the century strikes you while you are stuffing your face with Cheetos watching Everybody Love Ramon reruns. Some of the best songs I’ve written were waiting for me when I woke up in the morning. I just had to run downstairs and capture them really quickly.

Let The Song Come On Its Own

Since we can’t really force songs and songs often expose themselves to us at random times that have nothing to do with the amount of effort we put in, we can assume that songs are just sort of handed down by the gods or whatever.

It’s not that illogical. Since songs are sort of out of our hands, in a weird way, all we can do is sort of relax and let them happen. The more time we spend writing, the more songs will ooze out of us, and the odds of writing the mega song increase greatly.

Love Writing Bad Songs

I’ll be honest, I’m not a lyrics person. This means that I can focus on melody and stress out about melody later on. It also means that I can crank out a ton of songs very quickly. To me, a song is nothing but a vocal melody and a few chords. I’ll figure out the rest later when I produce the crap out of the song.

With the band I’ve been producing part-time for right at 15 months, we wrote about 250 songs for their record and I must say that the highlights were writing the shittiest songs on the planet on purpose.

Why? Because it meant that everyone was maximizing their creative potential. No one was holding back. No one was stressing out about writing a hit song (even though that was sort of the idea).

There were nights where we cranked out 20-30 songs. I bet 20 of them were downright terrible. 8 of them were just kind of crappy. One or two were something special. I learned that the worse the writing got, the closer we were to stumble upon a great song. The songwriting gods reward persistence!

Good Things That Come From Writing Bad Songs On Purpose

  • Everyone Has Fun – People are relaxed and having a good time. Writing truly bad songs is an art to itself and you just have to go with whatever pops in your head.
  • People Are Maximum Creative – When you are trying to make something that sucks, you typically abandon the ruts you’ve been stuck in for years. You start doing things off the wall. Granted, this is usually just stupid, but there are times when it is great!
  • The Song Following Is Usually Good – When writing the worst song ever, the guitar riff is usually really corny and silly sounding. For whatever reason, the next song always seems to have a riff that is a lot more realistic for a “real song”. This concept is not limited to the guitar. It seems the melody and vocals seem to follow suit. Good things always seem to happen after forcing yourself into a stupid corner.

Bad Things That Can Come From Writing Good Songs On Purpose

  • Some People Try Too Hard – When a person sits down with the idea that he is going to write a hit song, it’s kind of like a guy going to a club dead set on finding a girlfriend that night. These just aren’t things you can force.
  • People Tense Up – When you say that you have until the end of the night to write a great song, you will feel the pressure. You will tense up. The tension in itself isn’t always bad, but it does seem to impair the creative process. People overthink everything. It’s sort of like a songwriting panic attack.
  • A Person Obsessed With Writing Only Great Songs Will Miss Out On The Amazing Gift Of Terrible Songs – Terrible songs have their place. They have a magic to them that we all should embrace for various reasons. Writing terrible songs is like an inside joke among friends because the writers of horrid music are often the only ones that actually get it.

Human League

Most of you probably aren’t huge fans of the Human League. I was raised on the stuff so I’ve got an appreciation for Human League music that unnaturally comes from my environment. You are familiar with Human League. The are notorious for the “Don’t You Want Me, Baby?” Australian sounding dance music smash.

They also had a mega smash in 1986 for the song “Human”. Basically, they are a household name. People know who they are. They’ve made millions of dollars and have had multiple hit songs. You can read all about them on Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_League

The thing that I’ve noticed about this band is they obviously just crank out the songs and let whatever come out that comes out. Some of the crap this band has created and actually released is about as disgusting and vomit like as it gets. Try listening to “Empire State Human”!! It’ll blow your mind.

The beauty of the fact that this group’s songs change so much even within the same album and obvious super crap comes out is also the reason that the world has “Don’t You Want Me, Baby?” and ”Human”. Both of these songs impacted our culture and my life wouldn’t be the same without them (for better or worse).

So I guess Human League sums up my songwriting concept here. By relaxing and letting whatever comes out, come out, you will create a bunch of crap that people are still laughing at 20 years later, but you may stumble onto a few songs that really do change the world just a little bit.

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